Rabbi Ervin Birnbaum, Bet Israel’s rabbi emeritus, created and still leads an award-winning program for the Russian community called She’arim, which offers subsidized Jewish cultural experiences for Russian olim, including monthly tiyulim (excursions) to various places in Israel, “Learn to Love Our Homeland.” Members of the congregation are invited to attend and there is always both a Russian-speaking guide and an English-speaking guide.
She’arim also has a gan yeladim (nursery school), a social club meetings and tutorial sessions program for young teens and adults, and social programming for Russian seniors. There are Friday evening Kabalat Shabbat gatherings with hot meal and entertainment as well as instruction in Jewish history and traditions leading to conversion accepted by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.
And every Monday at noontime is Music at Midday, outstanding chamber music programs by Russian olim. A love of classical music and great musical talent seems to be a part of the Russian psyche! These very talented musicians play for various orchestras and music groups around Israel and many travel and perform in Europe and elsewhere. Many have won prestigious music awards. They perform for She’arim, which charges only a modest ticket price (NIS 30, less than $8), in appreciation for this program and all it does for the community. It is a highlight of the week in Netanya!
Several times per year, She’arim co-sponsors with Bet Israel and the Ministry of Culture gala concerts featuring up to a dozen musicians and operatic soloists, held in Bet Israel’s spacious building and open to the public.